Australia have advanced to the World Cup Final with a 16-14 win over Trans-Tasman rivals New Zealand in an epic semi-final in Leeds on Saturday morning (AEDT).
After trailing 14-10 at the break the Kangaroos took the lead through Cameron Murray in the 53rd minute and then kept the Kiwis at bay in a pulsating second half that featured brutal defence, flare-ups and close calls.
An early mistake by Peta Hiku handed Australia field position but the Kiwis defence held firm before Ben Hunt kicked out on the full in the eighth minute and the Kangaroos were forced to defend their line.
Come the 11th minute and the Kiwis struck first when a pinpoint kick by Dylan Brown was caught by Joey Manu who produced a brilliant offload to Jahrome Hughes for the try.
The Kangaroos returned serve five minutes later with a memorabe four-pointer through Josh Addo-Carr, who showed dazzling speed to chase Hunt's crossfield kick and take the ball on the full for his 12th try of the tournament.
An offside penalty against Cameron Munster handed Rapana the chance to slot a penalty goal in the 26th minute and the Kiwis had the lead 8-6.
Brown's big stage moment
A right side raid by the Kangaroos led to their second try when Jack Wighton left Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad in his wake with a brilliant step, rode a Manu tackle and offloaded for Valentine Holmes to dot down in the corner.
Three minutes before the break the Kiwis were back in front after Ronaldo Mulitalo exploded down the left wing and sent a perfectly timed pass back inside for Brown to cap a brilliant opening half with a try. Rapana converted for 14-10.
New Zealand looked to have extended their lead early in the second half when Peta Hiku crossed after Addo-Carr had put down a bomb but the video referee ruled that Rapana had been marginally in front of the kicker.
A penalty against Brandon Smith for ruck interference in the 53rd minute gave the Kangaroos a tap kick 10 metres out and Cameron Murray powered through some soft defence to grab his fourth try of the tournament. Nathan Cleary's conversion gave the Kangaroos a 16-14 lead.
With 15 minutes to play and the game in the balance, a mistake by Rapana gave Australia a chance to take the upper hand by Mulitalo was on hand to clean up an Angus Crichton grubber and the Kiwis hung on.
Hiku went within inches of scoring in the corner in the 73rd minute as a gripping contest went up another gear.
The Kiwis then launched one final raid but Latrell Mitchell produced a spectacular take to difuse a Hughes bomb and the defending champions were through to the decider.
Match: Australia v New Zealand
Semi Finals -
Venue: Elland Road, Leeds
- The Kiwis completed 18 of 19 sets in the first half at 94 per cent. The Kangaroos were 15 of 17 at 88 per cent.
- The Kiwis made 130 more running metres than the Kangaroos in the first half (1003 to 873). By full-time the Kangaroos had 1847 metres to New Zealand's 1807.
- Both sides came up with eight errors for the night.
- Moses Leota and Nelson Asofa-Solomona were injected into the game by Michael Maguire in the 29th minute for James Fisher-Harris and Joseph Tapine. JFH came back in the 52nd minute for his second stint.
- Kiwis winger Ronaldo Mulitalo left the field with 20 minutes to play with a knee injury.
- Josh Addo-Carr's tally of 12 tries equals fellow Kangaroo Valentine Holmes' tournament record set in 2017.
The Kangaroos try that had just about everything
- The last time Australia and New Zealand met at the World Cup was the 2013 Final at Old Trafford, won 34-2 by the Kangaroos.
- Five members of Penrith's premiership-winning team were on show at Elland Road - Nathan Cleary, Liam Martin and Isaah Yeo for Australia, James Fisher-Harris and Moses Leota for the Kiwis.
- Harry Grant entered the fray in the 27th minute to take over from Ben Hunt at dummy half.
Murray catches them napping
- Only seven penalties were blown for the match as referee Ashley Klein let the game flow.
- Tino Fa'asuamaleaui was put into the game by Kangaroos coach Mal Meninga in the 56th minute. His first tackle was a bell ringer on Joey Manu that forced an error from the Kiwi fullback.
- Roosters superstars Joey Manu (236 metres) and James Tedesco (272 metres) were maginificent at fullback for their nations.
- Valentine Holmes now has 14 World Cup tries to his name. The all-time record is 16 held by Kangaroos legend Billy Slater.
- Player of the match Liam Martin came up with 35 tackles and 107 run metres for the Kangaroos in a powerful display.
Play of the Game
After conceding the first four-pointer of the night the Kangaroos struck back in style with one of the great World Cup tries. Hooker Ben Hunt took the ball on the last tackle and launched a cross field kick from 40 metres out. Kiwis winger Jordan Rapana tracked the ball back and looked set to make the catch before Josh Addo-Carr appeared from nowhere to take the ball on the full and score his 12th try of the tournament. Addo-Carr's blinding speed and instincts have been a highlight of the World Cup and his highlight reel will make for spectacular viewing for years to come.
Always keep your eyes on the Foxx!
What They Said
"That was Test match football. We had to fight hard. I thought we used our skills a lot better tonight and created plenty of opportunities, and the Kiwis created opportunities as well but the desperation defence was there as well as commitment. All those characteristics you want in Test match footy came out tonight. It was a great challenge for both sides and I thought both sides handled it really well. I think that will hold us in good stead for next week." - Kangaroos coach Mal Meninga
Meninga praises Kangaroos effort
"We knew the Kiwis would be coming down the middle, their big boys, they're a powerful pack. We knew we had to match them for the 80 minutes and I thought our middles did an outstanding job. All the teams we've played have played outstanding but this is another standard tonight, New Zealand are at the top there and it was a great game." - Kangaroos forward Liam Martin
"There's a fair bit of emotion... moments in games, they win you Test matches, and unfortunately we just didn't capitalise on a couple of them where we actually had it. I've got so much belief in our players and we had it in either of the corners and it could have been but unfortunately for us tonight it just wasn't meant to be. The gap between the teams [Australia and New Zealand] has closed immensely and we've just got to keep pushing forward and close it even more." - Kiwis coach Michael Maguire
Emotional Maguire rues missed opportunities
Defending champions Australia are into their 10th World Cup Final where they will meet the winner of tomorrow's England-Samoa semi-final. The Kangaroos have played in two previous World Cup Finals at Old Trafford, winning in 2000 and 2013.
The Kiwis will be left to rue what might have been and they'll have to wait until France 2025 to try and take revenge on their great rivals.